Great Scotts! Men for all seasons

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Today: all you need to know about the Scott inquiry report.

When is the Scott report due out?

It's out now.

In a good bookshop somewhere near me?

Good God, no. In a very well-padded Jiffy bag, winging its way towards John Major's desk.

Oh. So Mr Major gets a copy before anyone else?

Yes.

Does that mean that he goes to a very good bookshop?

Yes.

What is it called?

Her Majesty's Stationery Office. Mr Major has a standing order there. He is such a good customer that he gets his books in advance.

Why does he need the Scott report in advance?

He wants to have a good look at it so that he can have some answers ready for Tony Blair's jokes.

Will Mr Blair make some jokes?

Yes.

What kind of jokes?

Oh, well, he will inquire if Mr Major has any junior ministers in mind to put in the Cabinet after all the ministers implicated in the Scott report have resigned. He will ask if any of the ministers in the Scott report committed the cardinal sin of sending a child to a select school ...

Is that a joke?

It is a reference to Harriet Harman, but it would be intended as a joke.

Perhaps we had better restrict our questions to the Scott report itself .... What sort of a work is it?

It is heavy, and very long. It has many, many characters in it. It shows a close though not always intuitive knowledge of the workings of the corridors of power. It has a panoramic grasp of history, though a somewhat ponderous touch, and precious few jokes ...

It sounds like a Walter Scott novel.

Yes, doesn't it?

Just a moment ... Good heavens! Is Richard Scott related to Sir Walter Scott?

Direct descendant.

You don't say ...

That's it. Richard has inherited all his illustrious forebear's wearying attention to detail and his grasp of history.

I see ... Of course, for a little while Walter Scott was the darling of the press.

And so will Richard be.

But now Walter Scott's Waverley novels clog up the pores of the secondhand book trade.

And so will the Scott report. It represents a valiant effort to struggle single-handed against enormous odds, a bit like Scott of the Antarctic.

Ye-e-es - good heavens! You don't mean that Captain Scott ... ?

Yes, direct relation of Richard Scott.

Extraordinary. To think of that man, going out there almost alone, with heroically few resources, into conditions of implacable hostility which would have sunk a lesser man ...

Are you thinking of Captain Scott or Richard Scott?

Either, really. And yet, however brave Richard Scott has been, if his enemies get their way the Scott report will become just a sort of background wallpaper, a harmless political equivalent of ... of ...

Peter Scott bird paintings?

Peter Scott! You don't mean ... ?

Yes. So Richard Scott and Sir Walter Scott and Peter Scott and Scott of the Antarctic .... All related. All part of the great days of Britain. All part of the proud days when men like Walter Scott or Captain Scott took personal responsibility.

Unlike today.

Exactly. Can you imagine any of the people involved in the Scott report having that sort of moral fibre? Can you imagine any Tory minister being able to resign on principle? Can you imagine William Waldegrave walking out into the snow and saying, "I am going outside - I may be some little time"?

No, I can't, actually. So will anyone resign?

Yes. Richard Scott. Scott himself will resign!

Are you serious?

No. These are the jokes, folks. In the immortal words of Ronnie Scott.

Ronnie Scott? The man who owns Ronnie Scott's Club?

The very same.

You don't mean ... ?

Richard Scott's brother. Not many people know that.

Would you like your own copy of the Scott report? Just drop us a line, enclosing a blank cheque made payable to the Iraqi government.

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